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Search Interview with Dr. Robert E. Svoboda Dr. Robert Svoboda is the first Westerner ever to graduate from a college of Ayurveda in and be licensed to practice Ayurveda in India. Lived in India and Since he travels the world lecturing, consulting, teaching and writing. Svoboda and Dr. Claudia Welch gave lections.
Interview with Dr. As we know, we can divide the Hindu tradition in two parts: the Vedic and Agamic knowledge. They are not opposite to each other, but are parallel ways. Robert Svoboda: Yes, because after all the Agamas have emerged from the Vedas. Ilya: I have spent about 12 years in India and talked to many Indian pandits.
They usually would say that to follow the Vedic tradition one should be born as a Brahmin or a Hindu; but to follow the Agamic tradition it does not matter where one is from or which is your native culture.
One can join this tradition and study within it. As we are seeing now in the West, this traditional Indian knowledge has become more and more popular. At the same time in India most people have lost interest in this traditional knowledge. They are trying to be more western; they are trying to build a consumption society. So we can see in general that the knowledge is moving from the East to the West. I was in California a few times and I saw a lot of people practicing yoga, at least physical yoga.
They were trying to follow a vegetarian diet, to study Ayurveda, sing bhajans and kirtan and so on. So what do you think about the moving of knowledge from the East to the West? What is your opinion about it? Svoboda: Certainly, it is moving in a superficial form. The clothing is moving, the external version is moving. Whether the internal version is moving or not it is a different matter. It is good to practice Ayurveda, it is good to worship the Gods and Goddesses, it is good to do bhajans.
Of course, depending on what your own personal development is, that will determine how, in what way and how well you will be able to connect to that tradition and bring it to life inside yourself. So if you are singing the praises of Krishna, this is always good, but if you actually want to generate a connection between Krishna who lives in the world of archetypes and yourself, you have to be able to connect to the world of archetypes.
That is not so easy, and most people in the West have no clue, that that is necessary, because they have no clue of what that means. It is much more difficult, but it also produces a much more accurate picture of what that reality really is.
So the problem that I see in the West is that, especially in places like the USA, where I am from, is that a person will obtain this much knowledge and immediately think that they have a large amount of knowledge. And then start to act on the basis of what they think, they posses. In the West the knowledge is something that is tangible, is material, it is something that can be transferred easily, can be bought and sold; or as in India real knowledge is something that is a living being — is a Vidya.
So when you think of Vidya in just in a general sense it means a body of knowledge, but when you think of Vidya in the traditional sense, it means the embodiment of the potential knowledge that exists in the Universe. So Ayurveda is a bunch of techniques and theories and practices that have been accumulated over many centuries in a way that we think about Ayurveda.
But the Ayurvidya is the Shakti that has inspired the development of Ayurveda. And has to posses an individual before that individual can actually act as a vehicle for healing energy to move into the world. Ilya: As we know the traditional way of transmitting knowledge is the Gurukula system — from person to person, and this is the traditional way of studying Ayurveda also. But we see in the modern world most of the knowledge is transmitted by media.
You talked in your lecture about the transmission of knowledge by media. So yes, information is being transmitted by media. The problem that I had 40 years ago when I was studying Ayurveda is that the amount of information in English was very small, and even the amount of information in other languages which was not so great.
So I had to put a lot of attention into obtaining the information. But I was also fortunate enough to be able to assist people, to have people to assist me, to turn that information into knowledge. So, If you are not so fortunate as to have a person who is going to guide you personally, then you have to do it the old tried and true way which is: you take one piece of information that appears to you that many people have told you is real information, then you have to try it out in yourself.
Then you have to have personal experience, then you know. Then you know: that is the wall, this is my head, and when I beat my head, this is the result. Then you are never unclear. Someone else can say: you should go beat your head against the wall. And you should always try the most basic and simple and less dangerous things out on your own first.
And then you have to pay attention to how your organism reacts to taking in new information and converting it into knowledge, and then you start to get a prospective on how the next piece of information can be integrated, and then slowly you can develop some momentum.
And then automatically if you can attract the attention of the Ayurvidya or whatever Vidya you are trying to attract, then automatically at some point you will ran into somebody who can teach you more. They have to be patient, if they want to get well. And then move ahead from there. This is why nowadays when I personally study yoga; I like to study with Mr. Shandor Remete. And I like him because he is a very focused guy. And he is very interested in prana, and he is not interested in trying to show off, at least not any more.
It may have been when he was younger, but now he is very focused on simply making sure that people understand how they need to move the prana in their bodies in order to get some benefits. Otherwise there is no use. Ilya: He studied from different sources: Indian yoga, Chinese martial arts, Kalaripayattu, Bharatnatyam dance, and he is making his own system by mixing this.
He is not trying to pretend that it is not his own system. Krishnamacharya: did he add anything to what he was taught? And for that matter the people that he learnt from, did they add anything from some other traditions possibly? And where did those things come from? This is Shadow Yoga. Ilya: This is what I mean by how the western mind transforms the tradition. Russia is maybe half-East, half-West and we have influence of both cultures here.
But why were we born here? Maybe, because we were not satisfied completely with the traditional way of transmitting knowledge like it happens in the East. Maybe some things became very rigid in the East. And we got more opportunities, have the opportunity to combine the different sources. Like for example the traditional Indian people they could not study some Chinese things or some shamanism of South America, something like ayawaska. And in our position - we have opportunity to combine this knowledge.
What Shandor is also doing, he combines. Iyengar for 20 years and studying with Patabhi Jois for 7 years and studying martial arts for many years. Ilya: And became disappointed … Svoboda: And became disappointed but after studying very thoroughly. They study for 6 months, for 3 months, for 2 years, they are picking up a little bit; they are not necessarily having it actually be integrated into themselves. That remains to be seen, we will find out.
So in my opinion, if you want to change your tradition, first you have to actually be able to tap into the tradition. I spent 6 years at the Ayurvedic College in Puna, being bitten by bed bugs morning, noon and night, in the bed, in the desk, in the cinema hall, in the train etc and having to go through riots and strikes and miserable weather and all kinds of other stuff. And in addition to that had to search out the people who actually had some connection to the tradition and not just the ones who claimed they did.
So after being there for many, many years then it was easier for me to know exactly what parts of the tradition still exist, what kind of people had them and how to tap into those traditions. And then having taped into the tradition felt like I was connected enough to add that I had a connection to it and felt like it would guide my own experiments and doing something with that tradition. It was only then that I decided it would be useful to try to express it in a way that was not the same as what I had been taught.
Ilya: Yes. What does Krishna say? God is everything. Finding a person like this is extremely very difficult. Rather than try to think that you are going to grab hold of this tradition and you are going to be able to immediately convert it into some form that everybody else can make yourself including you.
Start with one thing, implement it into your own life, see what it does and before you start trying to think about teaching other people make sure that you are benefiting from whatever it is you are learning. And make sure that whatever it is you are learning, is actually transforming you in some way. And then ask yourself what really is my dharma? People nowadays focus a lot on artha and kama. The point is you should be in the position to know what your personal dharma is.
Is it your dharma to go out and try to tell people that this is the new way to do these things? Or is it not your dharma? Are you sure you are in the position to know that?
Interview with Dr. Robert E. Svoboda
Агхора. Книга 1
Aghora: At the Left Hand of God